Avalanches Kill 6 In Western States

In this photo provided by the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center, an avalanche site in the Big Belt Mountains near Townsend, Mont., is seen Sunday, Feb. 18, 2007. AP Photo/Gallatin National Forest

Weekend avalanches killed six people in Montana, Utah and Idaho, with one bruised survivor traveling miles by snowmobile and on foot to reach help, authorities said.

In Montana's Big Belt Mountains, the bodies of two snowmobilers caught in an avalanche were found by searchers early Sunday and removed by helicopter later in the day.

That avalanche happened Saturday at the base of Mount Baldy, about 20 miles from Townsend. A survivor traveled the 15 or 20 miles back to the trailhead, initially by snowmobile and then on foot after the machine became stuck, Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Cheryl Leidle said.

Upon reaching a pickup truck at the trailhead, he used a cell phone to call for help.

"It would appear the avalanche drove them into a grove of trees downhill from the avalanche itself," Leidle said.

Families of the snowmobilers issued a statement identifying the deceased as Kris Rains, 26, and Brett Toney, 27, both of Townsend, and the survivor as Jason Crawford, 27, of Helena. Leidle described them as friends from the Townsend area.

In Utah, two snowmobilers died in separate avalanches on Saturday and a 17-year-old skier from Massachusetts was killed after being caught in a Sunday afternoon slide while skiing out of bounds near the Snowbasin ski resort.

Authorities found the boy's body after several hours of searching. He is the second teenager and to die in a Utah avalanche this weekend.

The other, Zachary Holmes, 16, of Farr West, was buried by an avalanche estimated to be 300 feet wide near Tower Mountain in the Uinta Mountains, about 14 miles southeast of Heber City, the Wasatch County sheriff's office said.

Holmes was wearing a helmet and an avalanche beacon, deputy Michael Graves said. Following the beacon's signal, his cousins found him and dug him out of the snow. He later died at the University of Utah Hospital, authorities said.

Earlier Saturday, a snowmobiler on Signal Peak in southwestern Utah triggered the avalanche that killed him, the Sevier County sheriff's office said.

That man, whose name was not released, was climbing the back side of the peak when the avalanche buried him in an estimated 8 feet of snow, authorities said.

In Idaho, the Bonneville County Sheriff's Office in Idaho Falls confirmed the death of a Utah man in an avalanche near Palisade Peak. Nicholas Gus Steinmann, 26, of Ogden, Utah, died Saturday after attempts by rescue personnel to resuscitate him failed.
  • Alfonso Serrano

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